- Eric Gagne to the Red Sox and Kason Gabbard, Engel Beltre, and David Murphy to the Rangers. Gagne, if he stays healthy (a HUGE if), will essentially end the game after the seventh inning for the Red Sox if they’re leading. But would someone please answer me one question? When the Red Sox needed a closer this past off-season before doing the inevitable and putting Jonathan Papelbon back in the bullpen, why didn’t they sign Gagne then for the one-year, $6 million he got from Texas? They would have had Gagne, Papelbon as a starter and ready to go back to the bullpen if necessary and not given up any of their prospects. Let’s hear Theo Epstein’s overblown excuse for this stupidity.
- Morgan Ensberg and Rob Mackowiak to the Padres from the Astros and White Sox, respectively. The Padres are a cheap organization. Cheap. They don’t want to spend any real money to win and that’s why you see inconsequential deals such as these; and trading Scott Linebrink to the Brewers for minor leaguers. What they needed was a slugger in the middle of the lineup that they could count on to hit for power. If they got that, they might be a legitimate World Series challenger. Instead, they got…Morgan Ensberg and Rob Mackowiak.
- Scott Proctor to the Dodgers, Wilson Betemit to the Yankees. Betemit is a non-entity for the Yankees; he’s got some pop, but what do they need him for? They traded Proctor supposedly because they fear that they’ve worn him out with Joe Torre’s perennial abuse of his relievers; but he was a live body who was mostly reliable out of the bullpen. They traded Proctor and kept Kyle Farnsworth? Why?
- Cardinals acquire Joel Piniero for a player to be named later. The Cardinals needed pitching and instead of acquiring a big name like Dontrelle Willis or Joe Blanton, they acquired Joel Piniero. This is about on a level with their signing of Kip Wells. ‘Nuff said.
I’ve made my feelings known about the other deals in previous blogs. The Braves bullpen will not offset the weakness at the back end of that starting rotation, regardless of what pompous blowhards with an agenda like Steve Phillips say.
We all make mistakes. I blew it completely when I suggested that the Jason Jennings trade from the Rockies to the Astros was going to result in Jennings’s best season and a division title, and a disaster for the Rockies. The Rockies have presumably gotten the expected production out of the players they acquired for Jennings; Jason Hirsh is a young, work-in-progress; Willy Taveras is what he is; and Taylor Buccholz has continued his trend of being less than mediocre; but Jennings has been a disaster for the Astros.
Dan O’Dowd is not a very good baseball executive, but he was right to deal Jennings when he did. I mistakenly thought that Jennings’s history of success in Colorado, along with the impending millions in free agency for a 29-year-old starting pitcher in a weak pitching market would inspire him to great heights; but he’s been just awful. After this season, he’s going to get offers, but nowhere close to what he would have gotten had he had a 15-win season or so. Jennings will benefit from the relatively small number of starting pitchers that will be available, but he’s probably going to have to settle for an Adam Eaton-type deal, rather than an A.J. Burnett type deal; and he’s got no one to blame but himself.
John Schuerholz has been a great baseball executive and is a likely Hall of Famer, but let’s put his career into context for a moment.
With the trades and pending trades he’s made for the Braves over the past couple of days—getting Mark Teixeira and supposedly about to get Octavio Dotel—-he hasn’t exactly been the "genius" that he’s portrayed as being if all of his decisions are looked at in full. He’s had his share of huge mistakes in his career that are conveniently forgotten.
His record in Kansas City with the Royals is highlighted by their World Series win in 1985; but his teams other than that were good at times, mediocre at others, and not quite good enough to compete later on in his tenure. His drafts—-specifically of pitchers Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza; and his acquisition of Charlie Leibrandt built the basis of the Royals championship team in addition to what was already there in George Brett, Frank White, et, al. But in his last few seasons with the Royals, his decisions like signing Mark and Storm Davis were highly questionable judgment calls that failed miserably. Storm Davis was a mediocre pitcher whose stats were padded by playing with the great Oakland Athletics teams of the late eighties for two years; Mark Davis was coming off of a Cy Young Award with the Padres and couldn’t handle the pressure of being seen as the guy to put a pretty good Royals team over the top.
The Braves have been a remarkable success story over the past sixteen seasons, but their nucleus for much of that time—-John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Dave Justice, Chipper Jones—-were already in place when he arrived. He made many smart ancillary moves such as signing Sid Bream and Terry Pendleton and acquiring Fred McGriff and Marquis Grissom; but his inability to find an effective and consistent closer probably cost the Braves three more championships during the 90s. The signing of someone like Greg Maddux deserves no credit whatsoever. His acquisition of J.D. Drew cost the Braves valuable arms like Jason Marquis and Adam Wainwright in addition to useful lefty Ray King; and Drew left after his best season.
Now there’s more talk about how the Braves have put themselves in a position to legitimately challenge the Mets in the NL East with the pending additions; yet he hasn’t addressed the main problem in the starting rotation. And there is the talk that since he’s contemplating retirement over the next couple of years that he wants to go for it all now. One thing should have absolutely nothing to do with another. No executive should allow his own status to affect his decisions regarding an organization’s future.
The Braves are fond of mentioning that they have payroll restraints, but their payroll is in the top ten in baseball at around $90 million. Now they’re making these desperation moves that may hamper their future if they don’t work. It appears as though Schuerholz has forgotten that the main reason the Braves won their division all those years in a row was due to the strength and depth of their starting rotation. He’s made some excellent moves over the course of his career; but in looking at his career as a whole, you also have to look at their consistent failures in the playoffs and the poor decisions he’s made as well. He’s an excellent executive, but far from an infallible genius as most prognosticators seem illogically prepared to anoint him.
Mark Teixeira is an excellent player, but does he really help the Braves all that much? Their major problem has been the back end of the rotation and the back of the bullpen; and if they think that Teixeira is going to love Atlanta so much that he’s going to take short money to stay after a year and a half, all they have to do is look at the name of his agent—-Scott Boras. If they want to keep him from heading to Boston, New York or Baltimore after 2008, they’re going to have to pay him and pay him a lot of money.
Luis Castillo is an excellent pick-up for the Mets "now and for the future" (to quote that noted genius Theo Epstein). He’s a former Gold Glove winner; he can run; hits around .300; and gets on base. He’s a perfect second hole hitter to set the table for the middle of the Mets lineup.
Kyle Lohse has wicked stuff, but he’s going to give up a ton of homers at Citizens Bank Park; and that Philadelphia defense won’t help him either.
Here are my best guesses as to which contending teams are going to get, or should try to get which players:
- Boston Red Sox: Jermaine Dye; Jon Rauch. For some unfathomable reason, Washington Nationals GM is enamored with Willy Mo Pena. Rauch has pitched very well the past two seasons for the Nationals and is far more available for less than Chad Cordero. The White Sox will just want to dump Dye for as much as they can get for him.
- New York Yankees: Octavio Dotel; Damaso Marte. The Yankees should have exercised the option on Dotel last season even though he pitched poorly for them; Marte has some experience in the post-season and is a veteran lefty who would be a major upgrade over Mike Myers. Kyle Farnsworth will be off the team by tomorrow, one way or the other.
- Detroit Tigers: Kyle Farnsworth; Vinnie Chulk. For some unfathomable reason, the Tigers have interest in Farnsworth; that Yankees might want to pay Farnsworth’s entire salary to pitch for the Tigers in the event that the teams face each other in the playoffs—-at least then they’ll be paying Farnsworth to hurt their team and he’ll be wearing the opponent’s uniform. Chulk has pitched well for the Giants this season.
- Cleveland Indians: Eric Gagne; Shawn Chacon. Gagne has pitched well and the Indians cannot fully trust Joe Borowski despite his racking up all those saves; Chacon has experience as a starter and as a closer.
- Los Angeles Angels: Matt Morris; Sammy Sosa. They need a veteran starting pitcher and Morris is very available; Sosa might be worth a shot and they can probably get him cheaply with a potential World Series inspiring his bat.
- Seattle Mariners: Jim Thome; Mike Piazza; Javier Vazquez. The Mariners need pitching and a bat. It wouldn’t hurt to ask about the highly-paid, 36-year-old Thome to see if Kenny Williams will bite; Vazquez has pitched well; Piazza is very available.
- New York Mets: Mark Grudzielanek; Chad Bradford; Chad Cordero; Bobby Jenks. Grudzielanek can probably be had cheaply; Bradford was with the Mets last year and has pitched well this season; GM Omar Minaya loves Chad Cordero from his days with the Expos/Nationals and it all depends on how demanding Nats GM Jim Bowden is for his closer; I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two aggressive and outside-the-box thinking GMs Minaya and Williams seriously discuss the flamethrowing Jenks.
- Philadelphia Phillies: Byun-Hyung Kim. They need starting pitching and bullpen help; they don’t have much to trade. They might be better off waiting for their injured players to return and seeing if some desperate for offense team that is in love with a high OBP will be willing to take Pat Burrell off their hands.
- Atlanta Braves: Mark Teixeira; Woody Williams. I think they’ll end up getting Teixeira, but the help they really need is in the pitching staff. Williams is a veteran who might return to form with a change of scenery from the losing situation in Houston.
- Milwaukee Brewers: Livan Hernandez. They have the bats to win; they need a veteran starter and Hernandez is supposedly available. He’s a big game pitcher and the Brewers and Diamondbacks have a good trading relationship.
- Chicago Cubs: Akinori Otsuka. The Cubs need help in the bullpen and Otsuka has pitched very well over the past two seasons. It’s probably too late to upgrade at catcher; why they wanted Jason Kendall and his pitcher-like bat is beyond me—-he’s not that good defensively to carry his unproductive bat.
- St. Louis Cardinals: Dontrelle Willis. Starting pitching. Any starting pitching would be an upgrade from what they have now and Walt Jocketty is aggressive in surprising ways. Young cheap players with upside (the Marlins are great at getting other teams top prospects) might make Willis a Cardinal. Don’t look now, but they’re loitering around the NL Central race. A hot streak gets them right back in realistic contention and Mark Mulder might be back soon.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Lohse; Adam Dunn. GM Ned Colletti is aggressive and wants to win now. Lohse has great stuff and it’s hard to figure why he has such a terrible record. Dunn is a pure slugger who can play the outfield or first base. The Dodgers need starting pitching and a bat.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: A.J. Pierzynski; Steve Trachsel. They seem reluctant to deal their prospects, understandably. They need an upgrade at catcher and Pierzynski, even with all of his baggage, might shake things up. Trachsel has pitched surprisingly well this season and for some reason the Diamondbacks are willing to discuss Livan Hernandez. They need starting pitching that can get them to the sixth inning—-and that’s Trachsel. Presumably both would come cheaply.
- San Diego Padres: Eric Chavez. Chavez is making a lot of money and his numbers have dwindled to the point that he might be available for top prospect, but so-far unproductive Kevin Kouzmanoff. Billy Beane and Sandy Alderson have a solid relationship and Kouzmanoff is a young, cheap talent for the Athletics as they retool. The Padres desperately need a bat.
- Colorado Rockies: Scott Olsen; Justin Miller. The Rockies are loitering around the NL West race. They need starting pitching and bullpen help and a good trading relationship with the Marlins. Olsen and his personal and professional problems notwithstanding, has great stuff and is worth a shot if he behaves himself. Miller has pitched well out of the bullpen for the Marlins.
If Terry Francona had any control of his clubhouse or any self-respect, he would have yanked Julio Lugo out of the game after his shameful display in the top of the seventh inning of today’s game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
It’s bad enough that Lugo has been probably the worst free agent signing of this past off-season (closely followed by J.D. Drew), but with a guaranteed $36 million coming to him over four years, the least he can do is run hard to first base. With two outs and runners on first and third, Lugo grounded to Devil Rays third baseman Akinori Iwamura and broke into a slow job before nearly stopping entirely before reaching first base. How much are the Red Sox planning to put up with from Lugo before benching him, money be damned? If a player is performing as heinously as Lugo is, is it much to ask for him to run hard to first base? And one would think that with his performance being what it is that he would try to exhibit some form of effort to his teammates, who by now must be shaking their heads at the latter day version of Rey Ordonez without the Gold Glove.
And what of Francona? He’s been dealing with the allegations of being a figurehead since he took the job as Red Sox manager and the implications of the inmates and front office running the asylum with the manager along for the ride. How much is he willing to take in terms of a lack of respect for his leadership? It’s one thing to struggle as Lugo has; it’s still another to not even put forth an honest effort. If Lugo had pulled that act for Joe Torre, Willie Randolph, Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland or Lou Piniella, is there any question as to what their reaction would immediately have been? Randolph already yanked Jose Reyes from a game earlier this season in a florid fashion to teach him a lesson about hustling, and Lugo is no Jose Reyes.
No manager in control of his team would allow such a transgression to go over without appropriate response; and what did Francona do? He did what he’s always been accused of doing as a manager—-nothing. Red Sox fans should be more ashamed of their manager than angry. He’s brought this lack of respect on himself and it will continue as long as he doesn’t do anything about it. Lugo is not only a waste of money, but he’s staining the Red Sox uniform with his horrendous performance and selfish lack of hustle. Every time you think Lugo has sunk to the depths, he finds a way to reach even further into the abyss. He’s a disgrace.
The Devil Rays and Astros completed a trade in which Ty Wiggington went to the Astros for reliever Dan Wheeler. Here’s a quote:
"Upgrading our bullpen has been a priority for a long time,"
Tampa Bay executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew
Friedman said. "Wigginton has been a tremendous value to this
organization on the field and in the clubhouse and obviously, it’s
bittersweet to lose Wiggy. But we got a relief pitcher that we
feel can pitch important high leverage innings and the back part of
the game, where it’s especially important with our young starting
I like to think I’m a reasonably bright guy with pretty good baseball knowledge; but what the **** are "high leverage innings"? Sounds like something some financial guy and baseball neophyte who was hired to run a major league baseball team without any qualifications at all would say to make himself sound…oh, wait a second…